8 Reasons Caution is Needed To Chat With Strangers Online

Updated August 13, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

Though the first online chat options came about in the 1970s, the first chatrooms that resemble the version of online chat we know today first popped up in the 1980s. Since that time, web chat options that allow us to talk to strangers, as well as the people we already know, online have grown substantially. Despite the evolution of these platforms, one thing is for sure; it’s still crucial to utilize caution when talking to people on the internet.

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Most of us, especially those who grew up using the internet or started using it regularly to talk to others as an adult, have a friend that we’ve met online. Research indicates that 76% of United States residents who were surveyed to provide data related to online friendships released by Skout, an online platform and app, have an online friend who they haven’t met up with in real life. Friendship is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, there are times when things go sour to say the least. Here are eight reasons that you must be cautious when chatting with strangers online.

Identity Theft Exists

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The internet is a playground for people who want to commit identity theft and financial fraud. They can pose as old friends, distant family members, or simply a person in need without much effort. This is an easy way to make kind-hearted people who just want to help others, into victims.

If you are going to chat with strangers, never give out your personal information under any circumstance. This includes your full name, age, address, and any banking or credit card information. Never talk about where you work or go to school, and do not offer up any information that might suggest how much money you make.

Do not respond to unsolicited emails or messages from people asking for financial help. Popular internet scams include the "Nigerian Scam" and various fake accounts posing as disaster relief services. No matter how convincing the cries for help, these are usually just an attempt to get you to confess private information.

As a general rule, avoid anyone asking for money, anyone who is promising you will make money quickly, and anyone who reaches out to you with an unexpected check or job offer. It is better to be safe than risk your financial stability. Product scams are another potential threat. Be sure to buy products from trusted, secure websites to ensure the safety of your information.

Age Is Just A Number

The reason scams and catfishing are so successful online is that you can never really be sure who is who in the digital world. This is especially dangerous in the case of adults who pursue relationships with someone underage. Most of the time, a predator knows exactly what they are doing. They will either pose as a child who wants a romantic relationship with a peer or simply a friendly adult who wishes to gain a child's trust. Although in these cases, no physical contact occurs, the relationship can still cross into illegal territory quickly. Predators often try to use their new-found influence to have illicit conversations or get inappropriate pictures of minors. Child pornography is illegal, and it is a very real threat in the online world.

If you’re underage or have a child that is a minor, be aware of grooming tactics that an online predator might use to get close to your child. A predator might tell a child that they’re “mature for their age,” and since many children or teens take this as a compliment, they may believe it and enter a relationship (romantic or otherwise) with a predator that could harm them. A predator might also present a child with a gift or opportunity to draw them in. One current example of this is the Dahvie Vanity case, which is now under investigation by the FBI. Dahvie Vanity, legally Jesus David Torres, preyed on dozens (if not hundreds) of children under the age of 18 by abusing his fame as a musician. To draw children in, he gave them band merchandise, opportunities to write songs or get featured in music videos, and invited them onto his tour bus, in his home, or on various outings.  

Instances such as the Dahvie Vanity case serve as an example of someone in a position of power and control using it to target children. It’s essential to talk with your child about grooming behaviors and online safety precautions in case they encounter a predator online; including people who are public figures or who claim to be public figures. Additionally, many parents let their children know that if they’re ever in danger or if they ever enter a situation where they feel uncomfortable for any reason, they can call you or another trusted adult or family member to pick them up without any repercussions. That way, a child will know that they can reach out to you and will not hold back out of the fear of getting in trouble. Let your child know that their life is by far the most important thing and that they will not be punished for speaking up.

You Become A Target

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When strangers chat on social media, a lot of personal information is often revealed. Most social media profiles include personal pictures, and information about birthdays, places of work, and hometowns. With so much access to typically private information, those with ill intent have an easier job of keeping track of your every move.

If you post that you are on vacation, a stranger can tell when your home is vacant. This opens you up to a possible break-in. If you are constantly checking into places around your city, they will know exactly where to find you if they want to. The more you post on social media, the more a stranger can learn about you. They can use all the information provided by you to stalk you or make you the victim of a crime. Be aware that, in addition to targeting you, a stranger may get close to you to target someone you know, including your children. Be careful when posting public photos of your children online, as well as their full names. You never know what hands the information could fall into.

Online Bullying 

Online bullying or cyberbullying is a possibility for anyone who logs onto social media platforms, chatrooms, apps, or forums. A hate comment here and there is one thing, but pervasive harassment is another. Online bullying, trolling, and harassment can manifest in a variety of different ways. Someone might release your personal information, such as your phone number, which is part of why it’s so essential to be careful when determining who to give it to. They may post it on a public forum and ask people to harass you if they choose, or they may prank call you themselves. Always keep information such as your phone number and address safe. If you make friends or form a close relationship with someone online, you may be tempted to share personal photos or secrets with them that you wouldn’t want to be visible to the public. If this happens to you, it’s not your fault; it’s the sole fault of the bully. No one should ever share your information or photos without permission, and the only real way to protect yourself is to refrain from sharing anything online (even privately) that you wouldn’t want others to see. Even if you’re using a platform like Snapchat where messages and photos seemingly disappear, be mindful of the fact that a person could screenshot it. Someone may use photos or information you’ve shared to blackmail you if you don’t give them what they want. Blackmail is a crime, so if someone does attempt to blackmail you, know that you can take legal action. Online bullying might also show up in the form of rumors, slander, or threats, all of which may require legal action as well. 

You Might Get Your Content Stolen

If you’re an artist of any kind, whether that’s a visual artist, blogger, fashion designer, musician, or even someone who writes recipes, you’ve likely faced concerns about stolen content. Many artists use watermarks and trademarks to protect their work, but what about people who post photos and aren’t necessarily artists? Meeting a catfish isn’t the only thing that you have to worry about when you talk to others online. You also have to worry about your photos being stolen for someone to use to catfish someone else. Additionally, even if you don’t brand yourself as an artist, it might be smart to take precautions when you share something that you’re proud of or think might be clever on the internet. People steal other people’s tweets, photos of themselves or their kids, creative ideas, and quotes. Strangers might profit off of your hard work, or they might upload your photos to a dating website and pretend to be you. If you find out that someone’s using your content as their own, take the necessary steps to get the content taken down. On a dating website or a social media website such as Facebook, this might mean writing to the site directly to let them know that the profile is fake. When it comes to art, it might mean taking legal action – especially if the person is non-responsive when confronted by other means. 

Crowdfunding Scams

Another highly significant reason that it’s vital to use caution when talking to strangers online is that, even if they are who they say they are, they might not have the intentions they say they do. Most of us are familiar with the more obvious catfishing schemes presented above, but there are also people who scam others without hiding their true identity. With the rise of platforms like GoFundMe, individuals have the crucial ability to reach out for help from their communities when they need it. While most people on these platforms are telling the truth, some abuse the generosity of strangers online. A clever scammer may develop a relationship with their audience or with specific individuals before creating a fake crowdfunding opportunity. If your intuition screams that something’s wrong with a crowd funder’s ask for help, you’re probably right. Go with your gut.

Fake Job Postings 

Many people are desperate for work nowadays, so it makes sense that more and more fake job postings are popping up online. While these postings are often for online work, they aren’t always. As stated previously, fake employment opportunities may exist to gather your personal information or bank account information or to scam you out of money that you likely don’t have. Additionally, you may be asked to complete work for free and be let go (or ghosted) before you receive paid work. 

Be aware of any employment opportunity that asks you to shell out a good deal of money or time before you get paid. Multi-level marketing schemes, also known as pyramid schemes, are another common way that people in need of work are taken advantage of. If someone approaches you with a work opportunity that seems too good to be true, don’t take what they’re saying at face value. Ensure that you have payment protection and research companies extensively. Often, if a company is a scam, it will be listed as such on an online scam alert website. 

Hackers

Just as scams aren’t always randomized, hackers aren’t always random. A hacker might talk to you and get to know you before they target you. To protect yourself from hacking, use trusted websites, apps, and WiFi networks. Additionally, if you’ve ever been negatively affected by a stranger online, know that it isn’t your fault. Being the target of hackers, scammers, or predators online can be an incredibly traumatic experience. It can affect you emotionally, financially, and even physically in a case where someone stalks, harms, or harasses you in person after meeting online. If you’re a victim of any of the eight items in this list, know that you can heal and that you don’t deserve what you or your family went through.

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Conclusion

Not everything about chatting with strangers online is bad. Good relationships can come from friendships that start online. But with the risks involved, it is important to consider if you can meet your social needs in another way. Most people look to the internet for companionship because they find it easier or more convenient to connect with others there than they do in real life. If you are struggling to form friendships, reach out to a licensed counselor. They can help you reach your goals of creating lasting bonds without the risks that come with finding friends online.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I chat with strangers?

Chatting with strangers is simple! The easiest way to chat with strangers is to put yourself in a space, whether physical or online, where you feel comfortable. It’s also useful to be in a place that is focused on one of your interests or a common goal. For example, it’s a lot easier to meet people and talk to strangers at a small party where you have mutual friends than it is to chat up someone in a bar where you’ve never been before. Or, it’s a lot easier to talk to and meet people that you’re volunteering with than it is to meet people just walking down the street.

The best way to chat with strangers is to put yourself in a context that already focuses on the commonalities that you have with them. It’s also a great way to meet people that will be around more consistently so that you can grow a friendship.

Which is the best app to chat with strangers?

When you’re looking for the best app to chat talk to strangers, you need to first lay out your goals and expectations for the chat. Are you looking for nothing more than friendship in the chat room? Or are you hoping to find a romantic partner when you talk to people online? Are you trying to flirt online with the hopes that it develops into something more? Do you expect the friendship to continue and to meet people outside of the chat room, in the real world?

All of these parameters will help you choose the best app to meet new people and talk to strangers online. When you’re looking for a chat app, you can check the descriptions and reviews. For many people who are looking for a romantic relationship online, different apps cater to different tastes. You can also ask your friends for their own experiences and reviews of the free chat apps and dating apps that they use.

Is it okay to talk to strangers online?

It’s perfectly fine to talk with strangers online, as long as you stick to the common sense safety rules. The easiest way to keep safe is to establish commonalities in a more “public” online space before moving to a private chat. In fact, chat rooms and social media are great places to discuss your ideas and feelings with new people. It can be a great way to make new friends online who have the same interests as you.

Where can I talk to random strangers?

While you can talk to random strangers anywhere, the internet has a whole host of free random chat rooms. Basically, you sign up for the random chat service, and you get paired with another user. Then, you are free to random chat talk about whatever you want. However, you should be careful when you’re using this type of chat room, since there aren’t many restrictions on who can join, and the premise often attracts people who might have malicious intentions. So, random chat rooms aren’t always safe, but they are a surefire way to meet interesting characters online.

Which is the best online chat?

The best online chat will be different for different people. The best way to find a place to talk to people online is to join a chat room that’s based on one of your interests. This online chat environment is a wonderful way to meet people who have similar interests to you. That way, you’ll automatically have something to chat about!

If you’re looking to flirt online, dating apps are the best bet for you. This way, you can meet people online who are also looking for some romantic involvement. Depending on your interest, you can try anonymous chat rooms that will protect your identity while still allowing you to chat with people from all over the world.

Is an anonymous chat app safe?

While there are few free chat apps that offer a completely anonymous chat, the ones that do are often associated with less-than-legitimate operations. So, if you’re planning to use an anonymous chat app, you should be especially careful about your safety. Never give out personal information or agree to meet anyone. Also, remember that although your comments and chats don’t have a name on the website, law enforcement and your internet service provider can still get access to your posts and comments in the forum, chat room, or free chat app.

Why do people talk to strangers online?

There are a lot of different reasons why a person might turn to a chat room or free chat app to talk to strangers online. They might not be able to find a community of people with their beliefs or interests in the places around them, so they’ll turn to a chat room or free chat app to discuss their interests with others around the world. Or, they may be in a transitional time in their life and they want to surround themselves with new people. So, they use a chat room or free chat app to meet new people online before bringing those friendships into the real world.

Whatever the reason, using a chat room or free chat app is a popular way for people to make new friends these days. As long as they’re using common sense and practicing some safety precautions, a chat room or free chat app online is a great way to branch out and expand their social horizons!


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